Sunday, January 27, 2019


Frank Bruni has found a potential presidential candidate he could enthusiastically support. Here's the problem: She's not running and no one except Bruni thinks she should run:
I did it. I found a significantly accomplished, defensibly qualified Democratic officeholder who isn’t flirting with — and hasn’t fantasized about — a presidential run in 2020....

Her name is Gina Raimondo. She’s the governor of [Rhode Island]. She just began her second term after being re-elected by a margin of more than 15 percentage points, and you would think that this commanding victory plus her youth (she’s 47), her working-class background, her educational pedigree (Harvard, Rhodes scholar, Yale Law), her role as the chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association and her situation far from the nation’s swampy and unpopular capital would start chatter about a move there. But no. Crickets.

The most obvious reason? Her relationship to the Democratic Party of the moment. Both stylistically and substantively, she’s out of sync with it.

She can’t tweet worth a damn and the same goes for Instagram. She winces at talk of a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent and cringes at the growing use of “corporatist” as a slur against Democratic politicians deemed too cozy with business interests. She thinks that big companies often need to be prodded forcefully to do right by their employees, but that it’s bad policy and bad politics to paint them as the enemy.
Oh yes, it's politically suicidal to bash corporations and talk about soaking the rich, isn't it?:

Raimondo is not just a corporate-friendly centrist, she's a former venture capitalist, something Bruni doesn't mention as he tries to imagine her running for president in a better version of our times. On the other hand, there's some nuance in her worldview. Bruni writes:
[Raimondo] acknowledged that “the system we have today is totally broken.” She cited grotesque income inequality. She noted that too many Americans have no economic security and no prospects for achieving it.

“But I fall in the camp of: Let’s fix it,” she said. “Let’s embrace business to come to the table. Someone needs to make the case that it’s in the best interest of businesses and wealthy people to be better corporate citizens. Pay for health care. Help people get their college degree. Pay for job training.”

Along those lines, she recently proposed that companies doing business in Rhode Island be taxed up to $1,500 annually for every employee who is enrolled in Medicaid because he or she can’t get health insurance through a company-sponsored plan. “I hope that they’re embarrassed,” she said.

But, she added, “Where I think we are at risk is if all we do is beat up and crap on businesses.”
It's easy to imagine one of the lefties Bruni hates so much proposing precisely this tax on business, and Bruni railing against it because it's a radical, confiscatory attack on capital.

Raimondo is trying to steer a middle course, but the reason no one is touting her for president isn't just that she's centrist (or that she doesn't tweet, which isn't a reason at all). Here's what Bruni's own paper told us last September, when she won a tough primary.
... Rhode Island’s frail economy has been a persistent political challenge for Ms. Raimondo, who has pledged in her campaigns to help restore the state’s economic vitality.

Rhode Island struggled longer than most states to shake off the effects of the last recession, at times recording the highest employment rate in the nation. Ms. Raimondo had a good run where Fortune 500 companies and other firms announced plans to locate or expand in Rhode Island. The unemployment rate has declined fairly steadily during her term, now standing at 4.1 percent, slightly above the national average. But some Democrats and Republicans have argued that she should have done more to improve the economy and the wages of state residents.

Ms. Raimondo has also been haunted by her overhaul of the pension system. The stringent measures she took years ago as state treasurer, including eliminating cost-of-living increases and moving workers into different retirement accounts, earned her the enduring enmity of many of the state’s powerful unions, and some are still angry about it.

And she oversaw the bungled start of a new $364-million computer system that failed in its goal of helping residents sign up for food stamps and health benefits.
Bruni acknowledges some this, but he makes her win seem bigger than it was. Yes, she won the general election by more than 15 points -- but she managed only 52% of the vote, in a very Democratic state. (Minor-party candidates got nearly 10% of the vote.) By contrast, a Democratic senator who was up for reelection, Sheldon Whitehouse, got 61% of the vote, and two incumbent Democrats in the House did even better.

Raimondo just isn't very popular in her home state, even though she won reelection -- Morning Consult surveys consistently rank her as one of the least popular governors in America.

But Bruni is trying to make the facts fit the theory (what voters really want is Third Way corporatist centrism, plus lousy social media skills). In the Raimondo column, Bruni says that "there’s no political priority higher than limiting Trump to one term." But Raimondo has a peculiar plan for attaining that goal, a plan Bruni enthusiastically endorses: "it might be a serious tactical mistake, she added, to nominate any candidate who seems to be at war with capitalism itself or entertains the idea of a guaranteed minimum income."

In fact, the one person who poses the greatest threat to the Democrats is someone who thinks very much along the lines of Raimondo and Bruni, and who is actually serious about running: Howard Schultz, the ex-Starbucks CEO. A top priority for him is reining in Medicare and Social Security, which he'll tell us even as he reminds us what a benevolent capitalist he was. Schultz would seem to be Bruni's ideal candidate -- but because he's planning to run independent, he might peel off just enough moderate voters to throw the election to Trump. Sorry, Frank: The policies you love may reelect the president you hate.

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